Suzanne Ruta
November 20, 1992 AT 05:00 AM EST

Natural History Maureen Howard

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Maureen Howard
publisher
W.W. Norton
genre
Fiction

We gave it an A-

Maureen Howard’s ambitious sixth novel, Natural History, is an elegy for Bridgeport, Conn., a proud working-class town in the 1940s, now a symbol of urban blight. It’s also a critical celebration of the American knack, exemplified by local heroes P.T. Barnum, Robert Mitchum, and Pogo creator Walt Kelly, for coining fantasy (and cash) out of history. Howard chronicles a family of Bridgeport Irish crippled by childhood trauma and private myth, but like Joyce on Dublin, she varies sad recollection with elaborate spoof. Western movies, TV thrillers, fairy tales, even an album of old photos and odd facts about her hometown complicate the design of this deft mini-epic. A-

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